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Scientists Develop Squid-Inspired Camouflage

Could invisibility cloaks be far behind? (Yes.)

Shutterstock / Alexius Sutandio

Researchers have developed systems that can automatically sense and blend into their surroundings by mimicking the methods of cephalopods such as octopus, squid and cuttlefish.

And the “optoelectronic camouflage” works stupendously just as long as it’s situated directly in front of a zebra.

So far, the scientists have only built a one-inch square prototype that works in black, white and shades in between, sort of like your grandfather’s TV. But the systems can be scaled up and made to work across the color spectrum, according to a statement from Cunjiang Yu, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Houston and lead author of the paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The key advance over earlier efforts to mimic “biological color tuning” is the ability to automatically adapt to changing surroundings. The flexible sheets are made up of thin layers that combine “semiconductor actuators, switching components and light sensors,” according to the university news announcement.

The paper says those can be wrapped onto solid objects to alter their appearance, offering an array of potential consumer, industrial and military applications. Plus, we can imagine some pretty fun party tricks.

But personally I’m holding out for invisibility cloaks.

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